Australia's role in shaping the int'l cyber environment


With a new cyber strategy recently announced, it feels as though a bold new path for Australia will be paved within the international community, particularly in regard to Asia-Pacific regions.

However, according to Tobias Feakin, the Director, International Cyber Policy Centre and Senior Analyst at the Strategic Policy Institute, with great ambition comes great responsibilities. And if Australia wants stand up and be a key-player in this arena, then it needs to ensure that it can carefully navigate some of the broader tensions cyber capability will bring.

 When looking at the framework in regards to cyber capabilities, it is important to be asking the following questions:

  • What is cyber maturity?
  • What are governments doing?
  • Does this link into the private sector?
  • What is cyber crime and what are the legal repercussions available?

 and perhaps the most important question;

  • what are its military applications?

To answer this question in context, it’s important to look at the area as a whole:

  • One of the more fascinating statistics is that the Asia-pacific region has 1.4 billion internet users in a region of 4 billion people.
  • This region is also the home of some very disparate connectivity, connected countries in the world (South Korea, Japan) to some of the least (Myanmar and Cambodia).
  • From an economic perspective, this region is the place to be. As of 2015/16, the Asian economy was still growing by 6.7% and constitutes a third of total economic growth

These facts suggests that there are both enormous opportunities and risks for private business and government. From a government perspective Australia needs to be thinking about how it can harness this opportunity. 

Another area that should be the forefront of business and government’s minds is the very serious issue of military cyber capability. Once again, jurisdictions veer from having very high capabilities, to those who are just starting to think about what cyber capability may mean for them.

For example, we are now seeing China expressing more conceptual thinking about how it is going to use cyber capabilities – both as a threat and an opportunity.

Here in Australia, we also have both a defensive and offensive military cyber capability. What is important it note, however, is that the cyber strategy outlines that Australia can only use it within the framework of existing international law (so we have it, but we also have constraints.) According to Feakin, this proviso is a benchmark, and sends out a very positive message.

However he also cautions that these developments need a sensitive approach from government. Given that we are in a balancing act between the US and China, we must think carefully how we navigate this relationship so that Australia can take advantage of Chinese high-tech growth, without alienating the US – still our biggest economic ally.

With this new strategy, Australia has sent a message to the world that it means to be a new cyber ambassador, and with this announcement, we incur a large responsibility, not just for ourselves, but to the region as a whole. There are both tremendous opportunities and pitfalls that shape the cyber environment and Australia must carefully and skilfully navigate it if it is to achieve its aims.

CeBIT Australia CIO Summary Report